Melody Kramer

People Not in News Commenting on the News: Meet Matt

23 Dec 2014 by melodyjoykramer

Matt Crespi and I share a lot of interests but the top three would probably boil down to comedy, food, and Philadelphia. We went to college together, though didn’t really pal around until after college, when we shared a price-fixed, family-style meal at Han Dynasty and were seated at a long table with many other people in Philadelphia who were just like us: hungry and united in the singular goal of eating really spicy, delicious food.

Matt is brilliant. He’s getting his PhD in public policy out in Pittsburgh and frequently works with political campaigns. He is also the only person I know who has been on a reality show. Before he entered Carnegie Mellon, he auditioned and was selected to be on Worst Cooks in America on the Food Network. I watched every episode Matt was on (three) because it was so much fun to see someone I knew on TV. (This is a hilarious interview with Matt about his time on the show.)

Matt prepared two versions of his interview, and I highly recommend you read both. If you want to participate in this series, let me know. And if you want to read others, click here.

I’ve prepared two versions of this interview. Feel free to use either, both, or neither.

The short/comedic version:

1. How do you get your news?

A combination of TV, internet, and phone calls from my Jewish mother. But not in that order.

2. Please send me a gif or video that captures your attention span.


3. How do you take your coffee?

I like my coffee like I like my strippers…in that I usually prefer tea to either.

4. Who’s doing it right in news?

Fox News, but only for the pun.

5. What’s the first news event that you remember?

Probably Pooh getting stuck in the honey tree. You probably remember; it was in all the papers.

6. What was the best thing that happened to you this week?

I found out that Frozen is coming to Broadway and that sells bacon-wrapped sausage-stuffed boneless turducken roasts.

The honest/longer/slightly-less-comedic version:

1. How do you get your news?

This is a question I revisit often to make sure I’m getting a good variety of information and not just confirming my existing biases. I try to get my news not only from multiple sources, but from different types of sources too.

Television: I regularly get news from TV programming, and my favorite news source of 2014 has been Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Other sources include The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, CNBC, and CNN. I also try to check in with MSNBC and Fox News quasi-regularly, just to stay aware of the differences in coverage.

Internet News Providers: I’ve really been enjoying as a source of explanatory journalism. It’s been good and getting better. I also check in with FiveThirtyEight,, CNN’s app, and also some sources of local news (as a Pennsylvanian, through and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). NPR‘s quick newscasts are also a great way to get a rundown of top stories in under 5 minutes (perfect for getting dressed in the morning).

Internet News Aggregators: I use Google services to aggregate news from other sources in 3 different ways. I’ll use Google News to browse headlines or go deeper into a story by checking multiple sources. On my phone, I’ve been training the Google Newsstand and the Google Now apps to learn what kinds of stories I’m disproportionately likely to be interested in and make customized recommendations (this tends to be where I get news about space, emerging policy-relevant technologies, specific business topics I like, and, every now and then, fantasy football advice).

Social Sources: I use online social services to get news as well. My friends recommend stories on Facebook. I follow a few reporters and policy wonks on Twitter. And reddit has a few great communities (news, worldnews, futurology, politics, etc.) that provide news links I find very valuable–and their democratic upvoting process produces different results than you get from editors and algorithms (a very important source of variety). Also a social source: people tell me stuff in person.

Rotating Internet Sources: Just to make sure I’m not missing really important stories or over-curating my own exposure to news, I try to regularly visit a news website that I don’t regularly visit (i.e., my online news reading line-up includes a rotating guest-site). Favorite rotating sources include: the BBC, the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, and–recently–Microsoft’s News App (came with my Surface, which has been surprisingly great).

My Jewish Mother: I’m Jewish by birth, which means I have a Jewish mother. And that means that I get a fair amount of news by telephone. Every time there’s a big story about crime near where I live, or a newly hyped burger place opening up in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, or someone I used to know in elementary school makes the papers, I get that news (plus a smattering of nationally important stories) from my mother, who’s truly delightful.

2. Please send me a gif or video that captures your attention span.

I could watch this for a length of time that would stun a non-Philadelphian.

3. How do you take your coffee?

I’m a tea drinker. I figure I’ll pick up drinking coffee when I get a job that really requires me to be alert early and often (if any White House recruiters are reading this, I’d take up coffee drinking for you guys), but as a grad student I haven’t had a need to develop a serious caffeine dependence.

4. Who’s doing it right in news?

Dylan Matthews of recently accepted, with good humor and cheer and without any defensiveness, a correction I sent him on an article he wrote. I was so impressed with his attitude, his willingness to make sure he got things right, no matter how small the detail. When you treat the subjects of journalism with the same agnosticism and truth-seeking attitude to which the best scientists aspire, you’re doing it right. (For those of you wondering, the correction I sent was about his mislabeling of a Super Star Destroyer from Star Wars–the article erroneously referred to it as Imperial-class, a smaller and more common vessel in the Empire’s fleet). I also think Sarah Kliff and Ezra Klein are doing great work at Vox on topics that are especially important to get right in the news.

Melody Kramer is doing a pretty great job too, though in light of my previous paragraph I’m starting to question her judgment in interview choices. (Ed note: Thanks Matt.)

5. What’s the first news event that you remember?

The first news event I remember is George H. W. Bush being President. Not his election, just him being the President of the United States. Does that count as news? If not, then the collapse of the USSR. I didn’t really understand it, being a small child, but I do remember the maps getting a lot more complicated and a bunch of new flags popping up. One flag in particular stuck in my mind, as one former Soviet nation hadn’t made a flag by the time my elementary school’s maps and posters were printed up. For about a month, I thought one country had a national flag that was a white box with black text reading “This country has not yet adopted a national flag.” Probably a country run by hipsters.

6. What was the best thing that happened to you this week?

I was given a copy of Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine, the greatest and most thorough cookbook ever compiled by humanity. It was a great Hanukkah present, but I feel like a newborn who was just given a Tesla Model S. I’m going to enjoy looking at it, and maybe honking the horn, but it’ll be at least 16 years before I’m qualified to really use it the way I’m supposed to.

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